Recombinant canine granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (rcGM-CSF) was studied in normal dogs and in dogs receiving otherwise lethal total body irradiation (TBI) without marrow transplant. Five normal dogs receiving 25 micrograms/kg of rcGM-CSF by subcutaneous (SC) injection twice daily (BID) for 14 days showed increases in peripheral blood neutrophil counts of three to five times the baseline. Platelet counts decreased during administration of rcGM-CSF to a mean nadir of 52,800. Ten dogs received 400 cGy TBI at 10 cGy/min from two opposing 60Co sources and no marrow graft. Within 2 hours of TBI, rcGM-CSF was begun at a dose of 50 micrograms/kg SC BID for 5 doses and then continued at 25 micrograms/kg SC BID for 21 days. Only 1 of the 10 dogs receiving rcGM-CSF survived with complete and sustained recovery of hematopoiesis. One of 13 historical control dogs survived after 400 cGy with no hematopoietic growth factor or marrow infusion. Results with rcGM-CSF were compared with previous and concurrent data with G-CSF studied in the same model. Of 10 dogs receiving G-CSF, 8 survived with complete and sustained hematopoietic recovery, a significantly better survival than that seen with rcGM-CSF (P = .006). Neutrophil counts were sustained at higher levels after TBI for the first 18 days in the G-CSF group (P < .016) and the neutrophil nadirs were higher. No differences in neutrophil nadirs were noted between the rcGM-CSF and control groups. Dogs treated with rcGM-CSF experienced a more rapid decline of platelet counts than G-CSF-treated or control dogs over the first 18 days (P < .001). The nadir of the platelet count was higher in the control group than in either the G-CSF or rcGM-CSF group and no significant difference was observed between the G-CSF and rcGM-CSF groups. After otherwise lethal TBI (400 cGy) in dogs, rcGM-CSF was not effective in promoting hematopoietic recovery or improving survival.